Product details

om83 / Volume 1
Johann Wilhelm Hertel (1727–1789)
Missa alla papale
for choir (SATB), instruments and Bc ad lib.
Edited by Franziska Seils

Born in Eisenach in 1727, Johann Wilhelm Hertel spent the majority of his life in Mecklenburg. In 1742 he accompanied his father Johann Christian Hertel (1697–1754) – who would be remembered as a famous viola da gamba player – to the court of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, where he found his first appointment in the court chapel as a violinist and harpsichordist. Having received thorough musical training in Berlin and Zerbst, in 1754 he was appointed Hof- und Capell-Componist (court kapellmeister) by Duke Christian Ludwig II of Mecklenburg-Schwerin (reigned 1747–1756). While he held this position Hertel composed primarily instrumental works and representative congratulatory cantatas. Christian Ludwig’s successor, Duke Frederick (reigned 1756–1785), on the other hand, preferred sacred music. Following the end of the Seven Years’ War and the move of his residency to Ludwigslust, Duke Frederick began to establish regular performances of sacred concerts, which later earned his court the epithet of “most famous abode of religious music”. The majority of the sacred compositions that Johann Wilhelm Hertel wrote for Duke Frederick “the Pious” after 1768 were chorales, psalm settings, and cantatas.

The three works presented in this edition are sacred compositions from an earlier phase of Hertel’s life, however. The Missa alla papale was assigned by the composer to the year 1753 in his autobiography. The Schwerin autograph score of the motet Ich halte dich (source B) is dated 1755, while the third piece in this group, the motet Freuet euch, because of the stylistic affinity to its sister piece must also have originated in this time.

Rather than representing the specific repertoire of sacred music performed at the court of Schwerin, the three pieces reflect the composer’s Thuringian origins. In a letter of 28 March 1756 to the Leipzig publisher Johann Immanuel Breitkopf, Hertel points to the rich musical life of his native region, “for it is well-known that on Sundays there is sacred music performed in every village”. In 1753 Hertel undertook a journey to his native Thuringia, which he later described at length in his autobiography. At first he spent several weeks in Gotha with his “contemporary and dear friend from Berlin, Herr Georg Benda (1722–1795), who had been appointed court kapellmeister at Friedenstein Castle in 1750. In his hometown of Eisenach he then visited the Gymnasium illustre, where as a child he had received a thorough musical education. There he met his former teacher, the cantor Justus Samuel Ritter († 1756), who asked him for “a commemorative piece for the school’s music repertoire”. Hertel presented the “mass which he had written shortly before alla Papale” and which may have resulted from contrapuntal studies he had undertaken with Georg Benda.

(Franziska Seils, translation by Stephanie Wollny)

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